HAMILTON – Antwune Freeman’s extra point as the clock neared 11 p.m. gave Smithville a 13-12 win at Monroe County rival Hamilton on Thursday night.
With less than 4 minutes to play in Smithville’s season opener, the Seminole quarterback found a seam on the right side of the field and ran in the tying score from 16 yards out. The first extra point of the night was enough for the win when Dylan Earnest’s long field goal attempt from the 34 yard line with 13 seconds left was short.
A relieved Smithville coach Bubba Tacker was able to let out a deep breath as his team exited the field. “It don’t matter if you win 100-0, 1-0,” he said. “A win is a win and I’m proud of the boys. They were tired. That’s what I’ve been preaching. ‘You’ve got to dig deep in those times.’ First game, it’s out of the way. Got the jitters out.”
It took a while to start getting the jitters out. Lightning and heavy rain in the area pushed the game back until 8:45. Just shy of Friday, Smithville started the season 1-0 and Hamilton dropped its second straight to open 2009.
“You don’t need a pep talk to play Hamilton,” said Freeman, who rushed for 93 yards on 16 carries. “We’re arch rivals. If you can’t get crunk off playing Hamilton, something’s wrong with you. We got some crazy fouls on us, but we’ll learn from the mistakes. It just feels good to win.”
Both teams had their share of mistakes, interceptions on both sides, a Smithville facemask and numerous offside penalties. The two biggest penalties came on a last minute Hamilton drive.
The Lions had the ball at the Smithville 14 with 55.1 seconds to play, but two holding calls backed them up for the long try.
“If we score a touchdown, great, but we can kick a field goal where we were,” Hamilton coach Ray Weeks said. “He’s booming them in practice and we wind up getting two penalties to back us up.”
Freeman missed two plays late in the third quarter with cramps, but came back in to start the fourth quarter.
“You’ve got to hand it to (him),” Weeks said. “He’s cramping up, just comes back on that drive and takes over. That’s a warrior there.”
Weeks’ freshman running back Deion Howard was a warrior too, finishing his first varsity game with 94 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown. Antwune’s brother
Datrune Freeman rushed for another 81 yards on 14 touches and scored Smithville’s first touchdown.
The Seminoles had taken the game’s first lead on his 8-yard run on the first play of the second quarter. Hamilton answered with the next two scores of the quarter with a 25 yard run from Howard and a 15 yard run from fullback Cole Gill.
Tacker said he told Antwune to aim right and hope middle on the deciding point after. Joking or not, it worked.
“That was a big kick. Extra points have been a question mark. I told my man to aim to the right, so it’d go down the middle,” he laughed.
After a scoreless third, Hamilton nearly saw its chances end on fourth-and-14 with 2:33 to play, but Austin Welch found Kevin McCartney for a 19 yard play to keep the drive alive. Howard then found room for an 8-yard run to the 14 before two holding penalties ended the threat with 6 seconds left.
Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal